April 14, 2020
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April 14, 2020
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All the Horrors of War

A Jewish Girl, a British Doctor, and the Liberation of Bergen-Belsen

On April 15, 1945, Brigadier H. L. Glyn Hughes entered Bergen-Belsen for the first time. Waiting for him were 10,000 unburied, putrefying corpses and 60,000 living prisoners, starving and sick. One month earlier, 15-year-old Rachel Genuth arrived at Bergen-Belsen; deported with her family from Sighet, Transylvania, in May of 1944, Rachel had by then already endured Auschwitz, the Christianstadt labor camp, and a forced march through the Sudetenland. In All the Horrors of War, Bernice Lerner follows both Hughes and Genuth as they move across Europe toward Bergen-Belsen in the final, brutal year of World War II.

The book begins at the end: with Hughes's searing testimony at the September 1945 trial of Josef Kramer, commandant of Bergen-Belsen, along with forty-four SS (Schutzstaffel) members and guards. "I have been a doctor for thirty years and seen all the horrors of war," Hughes said, "but I have never seen anything to touch it." The narrative then jumps back to the spring of 1944, following both Hughes and Rachel as they navigate their respective forms of wartime hell until confronting the worst: Christianstadt's prisoners, including Rachel, are deposited in Bergen-Belsen, and the British Second Army, having finally breached the fortress of Germany, assumes control of the ghastly camp after a negotiated surrender. Though they never met, it was Hughes's commitment to helping as many prisoners as possible that saved Rachel's life.

Drawing on a wealth of sources, including Hughes's papers, war diaries, oral histories, and interviews, this gripping volume combines scholarly research with narrative storytelling in describing the suffering of Nazi victims, the overwhelming presence of death at Bergen-Belsen, and characters who exemplify the human capacity for fortitude. Lerner, Rachel's daughter, has special insight into the torment her mother suffered. The first book to pair the story of a Holocaust victim with that of a liberator, All the Horrors of War compels readers to consider the full, complex humanity of both.

About the Author

Bernice Lerner, the daughter of Rachel Genuth, is a senior scholar at Boston University's Center for Character and Social Responsibility. She is the author of The Triumph of Wounded Souls: Seven Holocaust Survivors' Lives and a coeditor of Happiness and Virtue beyond East and West: Toward a New Global Responsibility.


"Focusing on the traumatization of the liberator as well as the survivor, Lerner tells two fascinating stories that are original in both form and content. Her writing is clear, straightforward, and compelling. A powerful and engaging book."

- Michael A. Grodin, MD, Boston University School of Public Health, coauthor of The Nazi Doctors and the Nuremberg Code: Human Rights in Human Experimentation

"By describing the fate of one Jewish girl destined to die under the most gruesome manner and the horror experienced by a British doctor and officer upon stepping into a Nazi concentration camp, Lerner humanizes an event that is often described only from one perspective: either that of the liberators, for whom the survivors were often dehumanized 'living skeletons' because of their deplorable living conditions, or that of the survivors, for whom the liberators were angels of mercy descended from heaven after months and years of utter dehumanization by their tormentors. A valuable and highly readable book."

- Omer Bartov, Brown University, author of Anatomy of a Genocide: The Life and Death of a Town Called Buczacz

"A towering achievement, Lerner's narrative at once brings us into hell along with its central characters and then lifts us out on the strength of their respective forms of courage and generosity. This meticulously researched story is nourishment for the soul."

- Robert G. Kegan, Harvard University, author of In Over Our Heads: The Mental Demands of Modern Life

"Lerner's moving account underscores the ways luck, courage, and a wide range of factors outside her mother's control allowed her to survive. In doing so, Lerner uses the story of two people who never met to document the ways World War II made allies of strangers and transformed forever the lives of those caught in the maelstrom."

- Maud S. Mandel, Williams College, author of Muslims and Jews in France: History of a Conflict

"Bernice Lerner has given us a haunting account of her mother's adolescence in Bergen-Belsen, interspersed with the life of a British physician who set up medical facilities there at the war's end. Her book is well researched and informed by both heart and mind. I could not put it down."

- Erica Brown, Director, Mayberg Center for Jewish Education and Leadership, The George Washington University, and author of The Book of Esther: Power, Fate and Fragility in Exile

"Bernice Lerner's All the Horrors of War is a powerful and poignant tale that traces both the arc of the war and the history of the Holocaust. In this meticulously researched and detailed account, Lerner never lets the reader forget the humanity of the victims or their liberators."

- Michael Berenbaum, Director, Sigi Ziering Holocaust Institute, American Jewish University

"Dr. Bernice Lerner's new book deserves high praise and wide readership. Although the mind recoils at the immoral enormity of what she describes, the story of these two courageous individuals stands in sharp contrast to the darkness of the most evil period in human history."

- Michael D. Aeschliman, Boston University, author of The Restoration of Man: C. S. Lewis and the Continuing Case Against Scientism


"Lerner's approach succeeds in giving a well-rounded view of World War II that looks at both military and medical strategy alongside a human story that shows some of the best and worst of humanity... Lerner effectively balances two very different accounts surrounding a traumatic time in history. For fans of both military history and biography."

- Library Journal

"Bernice Lerner has provided us the opportunity to see what results when one woman's will to survive and one man's humanity are combined."

- Thomas McClung - New York Journal of Books

"All the Horrors of War is a valuable addition to the body of Holocaust histories and memoirs for shining a light on a not well-known historical figure... The alternating structure of the book, where the narrative moves back and forth between the lives of the rescued and the rescuer, enables the author to tell both a deeply personal story, as well as a profoundly important historical one, reminding us that history is, ultimately, always personal."

- Amelia Katzen - Jewish News Syndicate
Johns Hopkins University Press
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